The Ancient History of the Distinguished Surname

This is not an official historical account.
Just something found along the way.

Few areas in Britain have produced as many notable families in world history such as the names Armstrong, Nixon, Graham, Bell, Carson, Hume, Irving, Lock, Rutherford, as the Border region of England and Scotland. The family name Dyke is included in this group.

Researchers have confirmed the first documented history of this name in lowland Scotland and northern England, tracing it through many ancient manuscripts, including private collections of historical and genealogical records, the Inquisitio, the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, the Ragman Rolls, The Hearth Rolls, the Domesday Book, parish cartularies, baptismals, and tax rolls. The first record of the name Dyke was found in Cumberland where they were seated from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D.

Different spellings of the name were found in the archives researched, typically linking each alternate to the root source of the surname. The surname Dyke, occurred in many references, from time to time the surname was spelt Dykes, Dike, Dikes, and these changes in spelling frequently occurred, even between father and son. Scribes and church officials recorded the name from its sound.

The family name Dyke is believed to be descended originally from the Strathclyde Britons. This ancient founding race of the north were a mixture of Gaelic/Celts whose original territories ranged from Lancashire in the south, northward to the south bank of the River Clyde in Scotland.

Tracing its ancient development, the name Dyke was found in Cumberland where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated with manor and estates in that shire. The surname originated in Cumberland near the border of Lancashire. The name originated at the shire of Dykesfield prior to the Norman Invasions. The earliest records indicate Robert Dyke granted lands to William del Monkys at the time of Henry III (1207 - 1272). Another Robert Dyke held estates during the reign of Edward I of England, about the year 1301. The family made intrusions into Yorkshire and by 1379, Adam Dyke had acquired an estate. William Dyke represented the Count of Cumberland in parliament during the reign of Henry VI (1421 - 1471). He married Elizabeth Lee, a descendant of the sister of William the Conqueror. Thomas Dyke furnished horses in the border service during the time of Henry VII (1457 - 1509). The Dyke family continued to flourish during these times in the original home of the name. Leonard Dykes, Esquire, who was Sheriff for the county of Cumberland served as treasurer for the troops of King Charles (1600 - 1649). Thomas Dyke supposedly originated the family motto. During the reign of King Charles II (1630 - 1685), he uttered "Prius frangitur quam flectitur" after being discovered by parliamentarians, and not recanting his devotion to the King. Meanwhile in Cumberland and Yorkshire the prestige of the family grew. Lawson Dyke, Esquire, married Jane Ballantine in 1765 and assumed the arms of that family in consequence. The family name continues to be a common one in these two counties. Notable amongst the family at this time was Leonard Dykes, Sheriff of Cumberland.

By the year 1000 A.D., border life was in turmoul. In 1246, 6 Chiefs from the Scottish side and 6 from the English side met at Carlisle and produced a set of laws governing all the border Clans. These were unlike any laws prevailing in England or Scotland or, for that matter, anywhere else in the world. For example, it was a far greater offence to refuse to help a neighbour recover his property, wife, sheep, cattle or horses than it was to steal them in the first place. Hence the expression "Hot Trod", or, a hot pursuit, from which we get the modern "Hot to trot". For refusal of assistance during a "Hot Trod", a person could be hanged on the instant, without trial. Frequently, the descendants of these clans or families apologetically refer to themselves as being descended from "Cattle or horse thieves" when, in fact, it was an accepted code of life on the border.

In 1603, the unified English and Scottish crowns under James 1st dispersed these "unruly border clans", clans which had served loyally in the defence of each side. The unification of the governments was threatened and it was imperative that the old "border code" should be broken up. Hence, the Border Clans were banished to England, northern Scotland and to Ireland. Some were outlawed directly to Ireland, the Colonies and the New World.

Many Border Clans settled in Northern Ireland, transferred between 1650 and 1700 with grants of land provided they "undertook" to remain Protestant. Hence they became known as the "Undertakers". Many became proudly Irish. There is no evidence that the family name migrated to Ireland, but this does not preclude the possibility of their scattered migration to that country.

But life in Ireland was little more rewarding and they sought a more challenging life. They looked to the New World and sailed aboard the "White Sails" an armada of sailing ships such as the Hector, the Rambler, and the Dove which struggled across the stormy Atlantic. Some ships lost 30 or 40% of their passenger list, migrants who were buried at sea having died from dysentery, cholera, small pox, and typhoid.

In North America, some of the first migrants which could be considered kinsmen of the family name Dyke and their spelling variants were Branches of the family settled at Plymouth, Newton, and Bridgewater, Massachusetts, from about the year 1640 on wards. The migrants formed wagon trains westward, rolling west to the prairies, or the west coast. During the American War of Independence those that remained loyal to the Crown moved north into Canada and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.

There were many notable contemporaries of this name Dyke, Charles Edwin Dykes, Financial Executive; and Sir Derek William Hart Dyke, of Hamilton Ontario.

The most ancient grant of a Coat of Arms found was:

On a gold background three black five leafed flowers.

The Crest was:

An arm holding in the hand a five leafed flower.